Friday, 1 September 2017

Ahiara Catholic crisis: Pope evaluating Diocesan priests’ apology letters – Papal Nuncio

Newly appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, has said Pope Francis has begun evaluation of the apology letters written by priests of the crisis-ridden Catholic Diocese of Ahiara.

Filipazzi spoke exclusively with Daily Sun in Abuja when the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, received him in audience.

In 2012, the clergy and the laity of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara refused to accept Bishop Peter Okpalaeke on grounds that he was not of Mbaise extraction. The priests had insisted that one out of the over 700 priests of Mbaise origin should be chosen as the bishop of Ahiara.

Ahiara Catholic crisis: Pope evaluating Diocesan priests’ apology letters – Papal Nuncio

Pope Francis, while receiving a delegation of the Catholic hierarchy in Nigeria, led by John Cardinal Onaiyekan,  on June 8, 2017, directed all the Ahiara diocesan clergies to, within 30 days,  personally write to the Vatican, pledging obedience to him and accepting Okpalaeke as their bishop.

Disclosing the current position of the Vatican on the Ahiara crisis, Filipazzi said: “The position is that the Pope asked the priests to write letters to him to declare their obedience to him and the letters were sent, and now, we are in the process of evaluation of the letters.”

Asked about the position the Vatican may eventually take on the Ahiara crisis, Filipazzi said: “I don’t know. But we hope this invitation of the Pope will be accepted and the people and the priests, will accept the rules of the Catholic Church about the appointment of the bishop.”

Upon Filipazzi’s arrival in July, there were insinuations that the Pope had started responding to the letters written by the Ahiara Diocesan priests.  “I don’t know when they started to receive the letters. But the deadline was on July 9, and I arrived on the 17th. I don’t think many letters were already here,” the former Apostolic Nuncio to Indonesia said.

Speaking about Filipazzi’s visit, Onyeama said it was fantastic and really good. The minister said: “It went very well and we look forward to working with him and his team.”

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